The American auto industry grew by 25.7 percent in May, but much of this gaudy increase came because sales numbers were being compared to those from a particularly challenging month in 2011. That was when the repercussions from last year’s natural disasters in Japan were first beginning to really affect the U.S. marketplace. On the other hand, no disclaimers are needed for the performances from the Acura RDX, Dodge Challenger, FIAT 500, Ford Transit Connect, Jeep Wrangler and Volkswagen Passat—all six posted their highest monthly sales totals ever.
May Record Breakers: Acura RDX
Honda’s lux division completely redesigned the Acura RDX for the new model year, and the wholesale upgrades are certainly doing their job. Acura dealers delivered 3,301 units in May, representing both an all-time monthly sales record and a big-time jump of 216.8 percent versus May of 2011.
Helping matters is the new RDX’s crisper, cleaner exterior design, a roomier cabin, and a surprising new powertrain. Past models of the RDX were motivated by an I4 engine that relied on turbocharging to improve power and efficiency. However, for 2013, Acura went against current trends and deployed a bigger, naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 13.75 percent more horsepower—and a 9.5 percent improvement in combined fuel efficiency. The bottom line here: 273 hp, EPA marks of 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway/23 mpg combined, and better May sales than either the BMW X3 or Audi Q5.
May Record Breakers: Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Challenger often seems to fly below the radar—if not the radar guns—when compared to its modern-day muscle-car rivals, but it consistently returns high marks for customer satisfaction. In fact, in the recent Autobytel/AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, the Challenger finished just one point behind the Chevy Camaro in the “Sporty Car” category and 15 points ahead of the Ford Mustang.
That kind of satisfaction has led to an ongoing streak of four consecutive individual monthly sales records for the Challenger, along with an all-time monthly sales record in March that was surpassed again in May—when the dynamic Dodge racked up 4,816 deliveries and grew sales by 41 percent.
May Record Breakers: Fiat 500
Driven in part by the success of its hi-po Abarth model—which, according to rumor, already is sold out for 2012—the Fiat 500 broke the 4,000-unit mark in May to post its highest monthly sales volume ever in this country. The 500 was good for 4,003 deliveries in May, and that reflected a leap of 128 percent from the same month last year. It was no fluke, either. Even as U.S. buyers have begun gravitating back to larger vehicles in general, the Fiat has now turned in four straight all-time monthly sales records.
Also, despite the fact that many thought the 500 would remain a niche-type product, its recent sales results have placed it squarely in the mainstream. The 500’s May sales didn’t just best those of natural rivals like the MINI Cooper and Scion iQ, but also vehicles like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris.
May Record Breakers: Ford Transit Connect
In 2009, the U.S. debut of the Ford Transit Connect marked the beginning of the Blue Oval’s push to integrate its global product lineup, and the fuel-efficient and nimbly proportioned vehicle immediately became about as much of a hit as one could expect from a truck designed primarily for fleet and commercial customers. Which makes sense, since the Transit Connect provides plenty of interior room, regardless of whether it’s configured for passengers or for cargo, and it’s easy to maneuver in crowded streets. Best of all, though, the Transit Connect gets the job done with an EPA line of 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway/24 mpg combined.
The automaker also offers the Ford Transit Connect Electric—in partnership with Azure Dynamics—to eliminate the need for gasoline entirely.
May’s record-breaking results: 3,937 sales and a 52.5 percent improvement in volume.
May Record Breakers: Jeep Wrangler
Who’d have thunk it? After being on sale for a quarter of a century, the Jeep Wrangler recorded its highest one-month sales total ever in May, delivering 14,454 units and a 44 percent lift in volume. Although, truth be told, those numbers shouldn’t be a surprise now that the Wrangler offers customers a modernized interior and powertrain to go with its world-class rock-crawling abilities.
The improvements also have helped the current Wrangler take home a slew of prestigious awards, including the SUV of the Year title from both Autobytel and the Overland Journal, the Cars.com crown for Play Car of the Year, a Best Car for the Money nod from U.S. News and World Report, and kudos for low ownership costs from Kelley Blue Book.
May Record Breakers: Volkswagen Passat
Probably the least surprising of May’s record breakers was the all-new VW Passat. After being redesigned specifically to satisfy American customers, the mid-size sedan has been doing just that. Since its launch earlier this year, the Passat has enjoyed a steady stream of accolades, and among them have been:
- Motor Trend’s Car of the Year prize
- Recognition as the top-rated premium mid-size sedan in the Autobytel/AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards
- A place on the Best Family Car lists from both Edmunds.com/Parents magazine and Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com
And the new Passat’s sales achievements have been just as notable.
In 2011, Volkswagen had delivered just 163 Passats through the month of May; this year, that number has climbed to 44,813 units. The vehicle has now attained more than 10,000 sales in each month after February, culminating in last month’s all-time record-setting total of 10,178 sales—10,177 more than in May of last year.
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